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Cross dock fuels growth at Dots

By banking on a combination of cross-docking and flow-through distribution to rapidly provide its customers with the latest fashions at affordable prices, the retailer has emerged as a force to be reckoned with in a highly competitive retail landscape.
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VIEW THE SLIDE SHOW and see how the combination of cross-docking and flow-through distribution fuels growth at the Ohio-based fashion retailer Dots

By Maida Napolitano, Contributing Editor
February 24, 2011

PLANNING AND EXECUTION
So in March 2006, Akey began the process of selecting a consulting firm that could help Dots design a new distribution system. After three months of extensive interviews, site visits, and reference checks, Dots decided to partner with California-based SDI Industries, a systems integrator and solutions provider that had extensive experience in the fashion retail industry. To aid in the analysis and establish best practices benchmarking, SDI brought in another California-based consultant, Dennis Green from Green & Associates.


For several months, the team collected data; audited current processes from source, to DC, to store; and analyzed business projections before nailing down the final detailed system design in November 2006. “The process was slow and tedious,” says Akey. “However, it was critical to define every nuance of the system, including all system specifications and software interfaces. Without this level of detail, a successful implementation could not have happened.”

In May 2007, after a lengthy study of the present building and available alternative sites, Dots made the decision to build a completely new office and distribution center in Glenwillow. In February 2008, groundbreaking took place and SDI was selected to install and implement the entire distribution system.

In September 2008, with only the floor and the building shell in place, SDI began mechanical installation of the new distribution system. “The schedule was aggressive and followed closely behind the actual construction of our new building,” says Akey.

By January 2009, SDI completed the installation of the equipment and immediately started hands-on training. “Because the unit sorters were perhaps the biggest change from the old system, we arranged for Dots to send their people to our other clients’ sites to literally work on their unit sorters,” says Steve Haskell, SDI’s vice president and lead implementation manager. From January to April, SDI’s software team was also onsite to train Dots personnel and offer systems support.

Because Dots did not really have a true WMS, “this became a more involved, all-encompassing warehouse control system (WCS) and software project on our end,” adds Haskell. “The new WCS is totally tailored to match Dots’ systems with almost no changes on their side.” Transition to the new DC was complete by May 2009.


Cross docking in the year 2011

 
 Steve Haskell, VP,
SDI Industries, Inc.

Q: What technological developments have enabled the adoption of cross docking today?
A: “The mechanics for automated cross docking have always been there. It’s just become faster and cheaper. The technological development is more on the IT side than on the mechanical side.  Information capabilities are so amazing now that you can communicate with suppliers easily, quickly, and commonly and that allows you to be able to tell them exactly what you want and when you want it.”

Q: What is the key to successful cross docking?
A: “You have to have good relationships with your trading partners. First, you have to be able to tell them how to pack what you want. Second, the partner has to be able to document what they’ve done and get it to you, so that when you see the product at the door you know what to do with it.”

About the Author

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Maida Napolitano
Contributing Editor

Maida Napolitano has worked as a Senior Engineer for various consulting companies specializing in supply chain, logistics, and physical distribution since 1990. She’s is the principal author for the following publications: Using Modeling to Solve Warehousing Problems (WERC); Making the Move to Cross Docking (WERC); The Time, Space & Cost Guide to Better Warehouse Design (Distribution Group); and Pick This! A Compendium of Piece-Pick Process Alternatives (WERC). She has worked for clients in the food, health care, retail, chemical, manufacturing and cosmetics industries, primarily in the field of facility layout and planning, simulation, ergonomics, and statistic analysis. She holds BS and MS degrees in Industrial Engineering from the University of the Philippines and the New Jersey Institute of Technology, respectively. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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